The "Million Microbiome of Humans Project" (MMHP) was officially launched at the 14th International Conference on Genomics (ICG-14) in Shenzhen. Scientists from China, Sweden, Denmark, France, Latvia and other countries will cooperate in microbial metagenomic research and aim to sequence and analyze one million microbial samples from intestines, mouth, skin, reproductive tract and other organs in the next three to five years to draw a microbiome map of the human body and build the world's largest database of human microbiome.
Multi-country joint research planned for MMHP
The Million Microbiome of Humans Project (MMHP), the largest international micro-ecological research program in the world, was jointly launched by the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden, Shanghai National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases in China; the University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Technical University of Denmark; MetaGenoPolis at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), France; the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre; and Shenzhen BGI Research. The project will rely on MGI’s DNBSEQTM microbial genome sequencing technology to draw human microbial maps of different populations and health conditions and establish a baseline of microecology research at the large-scale population level, aiming to promote the research of cutting-edge translational medicine in the field of human microbiome.
International scientific leaders gathered in Shenzhen Oct. 26 to launch the project, including Professor Lars Engstrand, director of the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR) of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden; Liu Ruixin, researcher at the Shanghai National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases in China; and Dr. Xu Xun, CEO of BGI Group and Director of BGI Research, along with Duncan Yu, President of MGI, and Hou Yong, Executive Director of BGI Research. Professor Mathias Uhlén, Academician of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science (KVA) and Engineering (IVA), and Ning Guang, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Director of Shanghai National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases, will also participate in the project.
Dr. Liu of the Shanghai National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases, said, "By studying the changes in the human microbiome between the normal and pathological states, before and after treatment in larger metagenomics datasets, and analyzing its effects on human metabolism and health, in the future we will provide more possibilities for new therapies in many fields such as metabolic diseases, cancer, reproductive health and newborn health."
As one of the lead principal investigators of the program, Professor Engstrand from the Karolinska Institutet noted, “the Million Microbiome of Humans Project plans to complete a human microbiome of a million-sample-sized map, which will lay a solid data foundation for current micro-ecological research."
As the leading basic scientific research institution of the metagenomic research, BGI Research will provide corresponding research platforms and analytical resources for 200,000 of the samples in the project. Like individual genomes, the human microbiome is closely related to individual health, said Dr. Xu Xun, CEO of BGI Group and Director of BGI Research. Although global scholars have published a large number of research papers in this field, there is a lack of large-scale, standardized human microbiology open-database and research-sharing frameworks, which greatly limits field research and communication. Through the multi-country cooperation to implement the project’s major research plan, the establishment of the world's largest human microbiome database will strongly promote basic research and international exchanges in this field, and is also of great significance for subsequent industrial applications.
MGI provides high-throughput sequencing technology support
At present, relying on MGI's sequencing technology and platform, MMHP international partners have completed the first batch of 10,000 samples of metagenomic sequencing. The batch of data was obtained by micro-ecological analysis jointly conducted by the National Clinical Research Center for Metabolic Diseases in China, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, MetaGenoPolis at the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), France, and BGI Research. Its data quality has been well received by scientists from around the world, which also laid a solid foundation for the subsequent mapping of human microbiome maps of 100,000 and 1 million samples. The project data will be managed strictly in accordance with international data security management regulations for storage and research. The MMHP builds on a strategic cooperation led by Professor Lars Engstrand and Professor Mathias Uhlén between the Center for Translational Microbiome Research (CTMR), a collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and Ferring Pharmaceuticals at Karolinska Institutet and MGI to introduce MGI’s high-throughput sequencing platform to support the institute’s research. Professor Lars Engstrand, director of CTMR, said that MGI’s platform has enabled his team to upgrade the original microbiological research from 16SrRNA gene amplicon sequencing to shotgun metagenomic sequencing. "We also contrasted DNBSEQTM technology by MGI with other sequencing technologies,” he said, adding that based on the quality of data, MGI’s platform “is the platform we have chosen."
New milestones in the application of “microecology” research
With the rapid development of genomics-related technologies, microbial research has become a hotspot in life science research worldwide. In 2008, the European Union launched the Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract consortium (MetaHIT), a series of research results published in the top international journals such as Nature that pioneered international microbiology research cooperation. As the only non-EU national institution to join the program, BGI has played an important role in research platforms and technologies. Now, the international Million Microbiome of Humans Project expands the human microbiome from the intestine to more symbiotic parts. At the same time, it expands the sample size to one million, which will become another milestone in the international microbiological research cooperation after MetaHIT.
The Million Microbiome of Humans Project welcomes further exchange and cooperation by relevant organizations to jointly promote research and application in the field of microbiome and can be contacted at MMHP@genomics.cn.